For family reasons, I was delving in to my mother’s brown leather purse one recent evening after the death of her brother who was my last surviving uncle in Limerick.
The purse was the only thing I had wanted after her death in hospital in Cork in February, 1996. Shortly after she died, in her rented house in Sir Harry’s Mall, Limerick, I asked my elder brother George and uncle Patrick to leave when I arrived so I could look for the purse.
I was asked why.
I answered: “Because my mother wouldn’t leave me without saying goodbye.”
I knew most things about the family and the past and the present, but sensed there was something that would be in the purse that would be bring me comfort or more or be a signal or something.
I found it.
Something I’d never seen before and, to the background of Jussi Björling and Robert Merrill singing Au Fond du Temple Saint from The Pearl Fishers by Bizet, I briefly bawled and howled my life away.
This is what I found written in a notebook and on paper wrapped in cellophane in my mother’s lovely hand:
“June 30th 1954 & April 4th 1959
Asked for her baby and from the moment it was put into her arms has lived in her memory for the rest of her life as the most perfect moment of her existence.
People talk endless rubbish about the duties of children to their parents, forgetting that the children are only in existence at all to satisfy the desire of their parents. Nothing we can do is ever too great a recompense for having thrust them into life.
However long I live, whatever I have or am or may be, still I shall not be able to wipe out to George & Brendan the debt I owe to them for all the joy they brought me, for their baby days of blessed memory, for all the years of boyhood and young manhood when they gave me a reason for my existence, filled me with the desire to go on living, stood to me for all joy, all happiness, every hope & dream & aspiration.
No, I shall never be able to wipe out my debt to them; and it makes me sick to hear parents talking as if their children owed THEM anything.”
(Christina Hanrahan (nee Shine), born Limerick, 1927, died Cork 1996; lived in Limerick, briefly in Kent and Essex, and Birmingham, England, then home to Limerick in 1986).
“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.” (James Joyce)